Nigel writes: Today was bright and warm from the start, and with a hot, dry, day forecast I was surprised to find myself alone at the Brookside, with no-one turning up to join me for today's all-day ride. After a few moments Rupert arrived, but he was there to give me a package, not to join the ride. But at least it meant that I had someone to wave me off as I set off towards the planned morning stop in Saffron Walden.
Rupert had reminded me that many of the day ride regulars were away on the club's week-long trip to the Yorkshire Dales. However I carried on alone to the morning coffee stop in the hope that other members would join me there.
My route south took me first to Great and Little Shelford and onto the road to Whittlesford. As I was riding on my own the pace was a little faster than usual so when I reached Duxford I allowed myself a diversion via Hinxton before continuing to Ickleton, where I stopped to take a photo of St Mary's Church. One day I will return and inspect its Norman interior, which Pevsner describes as having "few equals in the country".
From Ickleton I continued south, climbing Coploe Hill and the hill beyond it to Catmere End. From there it was downhill almost all the way to Audley End House (below) before the short climb back up to Saffron Walden.
In Saffron Walden I stopped at The Temeraire, the planned coffee stop. There were no other bikes outside so I ordered a pint of orange juice and sat outside to plan the rest of my day and to wait for anyone else to turn up.
After a few minutes David W turned up. He was equally surprised to see no-one else there. However this now meant I had company for the remainder of the ride, and as the appointed leader for today, I now had someone to lead.
Finchingfield, our planned lunch stop, is about 13 miles east of Saffron Walden. Instead of riding there directly, we took a big loop to the south. This took us through Debden and Debden Green and along a short section of off-road byway (below) to Broxted.
At Broxted we turned eastwards, along some lovely quiet lanes through Tilty, Duton Hill and Lindsell.
Just past Lindsell we met the B184 where we turned north towards Finchingfield. This took us through Great Bardfield, where I spotted that the village "cage" was open. This a single-cell prison, built in 1816, for "drunk and disorderly men and women". One of the benefits of riding in a group of two is that it is much easier to make impromptu stops like this than when riding with a large group.
When we reached Finchingfield I bought some cold drinks and sat down on the village green to eat my picnic lunch. The green was busy with people, including several other cyclists and dozens of motorcyclists, for whom this is a regular rendezvous.
After lunch we continued on our way. Our planned tea-stop was in Ashdon which is north-west of Finchingfield, but we set off in the opposite direction for a loop to the east. This took us along some exceptionally quiet and pretty lanes, and even David (who has cycled absolutely everywhere) was impressed.
Out route took us south-east through Waltham's Cross to Shalford where we turned east to Blackmore End and then north to Toppesfield and Stambourne. We continued north-west through the Bumpsteads and the Olmstead Green loop before arriving at Ashdon Village Museum just after 4pm.
Already queueing up for his tea and cakes was George, who had arrived just before us, and a few minutes later Bob arrived with about eight people on the afternoon ride, making about eleven in total. The friendly, volunteer-run cafe at this whimsical museum of village life offers a good selection of home-made cakes and is a perennial favourite with the club.
After tea we all headed back home, which for most of the group meant back to Cambridge. We split into several groups on the way back; my group took a route north through Bartlow before climbing up West Wratting, from where a lovely fast descent took us down to Six Mile Bottom.
When we reached Little Wilbraham the group divided once more, with most of the riders continuing to Quy whilst Cheryl and I turned left to Great Wilbraham, Fulbourn and Cherry Hinton. I was home by 6.50pm, having cycled just over 88 miles, making this my longest club ride this year.
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